Okla. Co. Board Votes To Move $36 Million In COVID Funds To County Jail

Thursday, August 13th 2020, 6:25 pm
By: Storme Jones

The Oklahoma County Budget Board voted to move more than $36 Million of the county’s $47 million in federal CARES Act funds to the Oklahoma County Detention Center.

Jail Trust Board Member Sue Ann Arnall told the board, the detention center is in desperate need of help.

“We are at a crisis right now at the jail,” She said. “It’s so dangerous, we are subject to lawsuits right now with this large number in the jail.”

All three county commissioners sit on the budget board. Commissioners Brian Maughan and Kevin Calvey voted in favor of allocating more than 75% of the county’s funds to the jail. Commissioner Carrie Blumert voted against.

Maughan said the money will be used on “renovations there, including the HVAC system, to see if we can do things differently with both air and also the plumbing.”

Blumert acknowledged the jail is in need of help, and does need a sizable allocation to help protect inmates and employees from the virus, however she said many of the projects being proposed at the jail are not what the funds were set up for.

According to the U.S. Department of the Treasury:

The CARES Act requires that the payments from the Coronavirus Relief Fund only be used to cover expenses that—

1.     are necessary expenditures incurred due to the public health emergency with respect to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID–19);

2.     were not accounted for in the budget most recently approved as of March 27, 2020 (the date of enactment of the CARES Act) for the State or government; and

3.     were incurred during the period that begins on March 1, 2020 and ends on December 30, 2020.

County Treasurer Forrest “Butch” Freeman joined Blumert and Sheriff P.D. Taylor in voting against the proposal.

“We got to remember when the dust settles, they're going to come down out of the hills and examine what we did,” Freeman said. “If what we did in their opinion the department of the treasury did not meet the guidelines then we are on the hook to repay whatever we end up spending.”

Calvey said using the money to help struggling businesses like the city of Oklahoma City did with a portion of the money would expand the size of government.

“How do you pick which businesses are going to get it?” Calvey said. “And which business get it and which businesses don't?”

The proposal has one more vote before county commissioners next week before the funds are officially moved.